Pope Francis calls for a Gaza ceasefire and the return of hostages in an Easter message

Pope Francis waves from a balcony, on the day he delivers his "Urbi et Orbi" (To the city and the world) message at St. Peter's Square, on Easter Sunday, at the Vatican March 31, 2024. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Pope Francis, in his customary Easter address, advocated for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the liberation of Israeli hostages detained by Hamas. Despite health worries, the 87-year-old pontiff led Easter Mass at the Vatican, stressing the importance of prioritising peace over armed conflict. He pleaded for humanitarian access to Gaza and urged for the swift release of hostages, highlighting the plight of civilians, particularly children, affected by conflicts. The Pope cautioned against rearming and expressed optimism for a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine.

The Gaza conflict, ignited by Hamas’s assault on Israel, has resulted in significant casualties and injuries. Easter Sunday holds immense significance for Catholics worldwide, with billions commemorating the occasion. Pope Francis, assisted by a wheelchair, greeted worshippers in St. Peter’s Square and later toured in the popemobile. Recent health concerns prompted the Pope to forego certain ceremonies as a precaution, following previous hospitalisations and surgeries.

In his address, the Pope emphasized that peace is achieved not through weapons but through open-hearted gestures. He called for an end to the suffering of civilians, particularly children, who bear the brunt of conflicts. Pope Francis also cautioned against the rearmament of nations and voiced hope for diplomatic resolutions to ongoing conflicts, including the war in Ukraine.

Regarding the Gaza conflict, which was sparked by Hamas’s attack on Israel, Pope Francis urged for immediate measures to alleviate humanitarian crises and secure the release of hostages. He condemned the absurdity of war and its devastating impact on innocent lives. The Pope’s call for peace resonated with the principles of international law and humanitarian values.

As Easter Sunday concluded, Pope Francis’s message echoed globally, emphasising the importance of compassion, diplomacy, and dialogue in resolving conflicts and fostering peace. Despite health challenges, the Pope remains committed to his duties, advocating for humanitarian causes and promoting reconciliation on the international stage.